It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. --- Ernest Hemingway

"Da Ambassador"

We all go back to cycling with our first desire to be able to mount a two wheeler and try to maintain our balance. It was a challenge back in 1945 when I put one foot on a step, rested my butt on a top tube of a huge full sized Rollfast balloon tired cruiser. The seat was simply too high for a 7 year old but I pushed off anyhow. I kept my balance (no training wheels in those days folks !) and rode off down the block. I forgot how to stop with a coaster brake however and ended up falling onto a grassy slope. Nevertheless, "I did it !" I rode my first bike and now the world was my oyster.

Well, having grown up with overly protective parents I had to wait another three years before I got my first bicycle. It was a Columbia 3 speed racer which was bought from the bicycle store on El Cajon Blvd next to Woodrow Wilson Jr. High in San Diego. My best friend a couple of years later got a Raleigh lightweight for Christmas and we both had Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub type gears. We later added a three speed Huret Alvetderailleur system that had to be special ordered from France in those days. That was in 1949 and I believe that my best buddy and I can lay claim to the fact that we had one of the very first if not the first derailleurs in San Diego!

We'd ride from La Mesa to El Monte Park and back. We'd ride up to Cuyamaca and Green Valley Falls and camp out. Many Saturdays for years I'd ride down to work in downtown San Diego from Mt. Helix drafting behind city buses. I'd ride down into El Cajon or La Mesa and then climb back up Fuerte Drive or Avocado Dr., Also time trialing up to the cross on Mt. Helix were regular exercises for my buddy Bruce and I. Those bicycles as light as they were for their day were still in the 34 pound range so we'd really get a workout.

At age 38 I did my first Century ride from Huntington Beach to San Diego which was about the time John Howard and Dave Tinsley were winning every race in Southern California and cycling was really coming into vogue again in 1973. They were my idols and that was when John Howard did his race across America. I wanted to do the same but family and sponsors put the kabash on that dream however, I continued to ride off and on through the years, never abandoning the sport. I discovered that I was never a competitive rider after being "smoked" by the local star Bob Zumwalt in a Criterium race in Santee in 1965. Nevertheless I still loved to challenge hills and zoom down the other side doing my own thing by competing against myself. Everyone has a forte' mine was climbing.

So much for history, but the main thing is that this writer has never been without a bicycle for 60 of his 70 years on this earth. The mechanics of a bicycle are forever fascinating to all of us in the fact that a person can build his endurance up to a point where he can literally ride for hours non stop at a steady 20 mph on approximately one fifth of a horsepower! When one thinks of it, that truly is an amazing feat!

As many of you spokey fanatics have done, I too have owned and or scratch built at least 20 bicycles over the years, from Schwinns to Dawes to Nishiki's, to a K-2, a Lambert and more recently and finally two Italian bikes. One is an 82 Conti and the other a 62 Bianchi, both of which are under restoration. Yes, I guess that makes me a "bike nut" but as one of our senior riders once said; I'm "78" but when I get on a bike I feel like a 14 year old again and that is perhaps the main reason why we all love the sport so much.

My story is only one of many who have adopted the sport of cycling for the love of it but also for health reasons. As I reached full senior citizenship, I noticed that my girth had continued to grow about an inch every 5 years and so I began to ride with two buddies at Lake Murray and each ride we stretched our legs a little and added mileage over time. At our 40th class reunion at Grossmont High School while mingling with some old friends we asked what we all had been doing and cycling came up and we all agreed to start riding together. Well, 5 years went by and nothing happened, so at our 45th I said; "OK guys, let's stop the bull! Are we gonna do a ride or not ?"

So......soon afterward we put together a ride around San Diego Bay with the founding members who were; Marty Weiss, Jerry Damschen, Dave Nunez, Harry Slayen, Don Fritzges (deceased) and yours truly. As time went on I discussed with Marty various ride routes and distances and we began putting out weekly bulletins which grew into 14 different routes ranging from 25 milers up to 60 milers with a goal to reach a century ride. Our initial objective was to make it exclusively a seniors group of over age 60 riders.

This changed however when we would pickup a new rider out on the trail and enjoyed their company and we'd invite them to join us for a coffee stop and later found out that they were under age 60 so, we just said what the heck, let's not have any age restrictions. The group objective was to initially call ourselves "fast touring" however when a couple of us "old timers" came up with some heart problems, we decided to just call it a "touring" group. Since we have now completely dropped any pretense of an age requirement, and since we have riders of all skills and ages, we no longer put a label on ourselves. We just ride and have fun. The RECYCLERS officially became a recognized club in 2001 and here we are about to approach our 8th year of existence in 2009. We now have an active rider list of over 70 members with between 20 and 35 riders showing up for a Sunday ride. Recently, we added a 'Masters Group' called the "RUSTY RECYCLERS" for riders 65 +, on medicare or have had heart surgery which will ride some mid week shorter rides and join the main body on Sundays perhaps with a shortened route or go the whole distance. Both groups will remain connected in all ways both with rides and social events.

The RECYCLERS come from all walks of life from doctors to attorneys to construction executives, marketing, medical techs, retired policemen, teachers, professors, firemen, and business people. Our weekly goal is to find the best coffee stop at the three quarter mark where we all gather around to plan the following weeks ride. We are an "apolitical" group whereas we wish to offend everyone equally ! We ride for the love of the sport, pride of ownership of a fine piece of machinery and most of all for our personal good health.

Safety is our main concern and again, every person is responsible for their own actions so please...RIDE WITH AWARENESS !

Sincerely yours,

Bob Groff, co-founder
aka Da Ambassador